As published in AdAgeAugust 21, 2017

Millennials probably don’t care about your brand. But the ones they do care are helping burnish their own personal brands, according to new research from St. Louis, Mo.-based agency Moosylvania.

The “2017 top 100 Millennial Brands” report averaged 15,000 responses since 2013 and found millennials’ 10 favorite brands include Apple, Nike, Samsung, Target, Amazon, Sony, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Coke and Google.

Adidas, Nintendo, Pepsi, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, Ford, Forever 21, Jordan, American Eagle and Disney were next on the list.

Moosylvania asked thousands of millennial consumers to name their three favorite brands, then the agency evaluated case studies to determine how the companies earned their place.

Though another new study by Wilton, Conn.-based Cadent Consulting Group found that 51 percent of millennials have no real preference between private-label and national brands, Moosylvania CEO Norty Cohen says certain brands are resonating with the age group.

“They definitely care about brands, they only care about certain kinds of brands, though: Brands that help them represent who they are,” Cohen says. He says Moosylvania asked millennial consumers whether they market themselves on social media and consider themselves to be a brand. He says a quarter said yes.

Basically, a brand has to improve a millennials own brand, whether it’s making them appear to be socially responsible (think TOMS or Warby Parker), stylish-looking or even help them be funny, if they can share brand content with their networks.

“We’re marketers marketing to marketers,” says Cohen. Millennials are very dialed into their own audiences: Knowing when to post, how to drive more likes, when to delete a post. “They’re very aware of their social status. So brands that can serve them, that can give them something they need to help them with their status, do well,” he says.

Brands that know how to communicate with the demographic are also successful.

“These people are not consuming advertising, they’re choosing to participate in brands,” Cohen says. “We saw a lot of people that were big advertisers ranking at the bottom or not ranking at all … It doesn’t matter how much you advertise, if you haven’t given them a way to participate and a way you can serve them, awareness is not going to get you there.”

Being a big-budget advertiser, the research found, not necessarily synonymous with being a favorite. Counterculture-focused retailer Hot Topic, for example, was the 29th favorite brand, while beverage giant Anheuser-Busch tied for 94th.

The biggest mistake marketers make is overlooking word-of-mouth, online conversations, influencers and written reviews when it comes to outreach. Cohen said those mediums are far likelier than TV, Facebook or YouTube ads to influence brand adoption.

One company doing that well came as a surprise for Moosylvania: Wal-Mart.

Cohen said the company is a staple in many areas, and has done a good job of making itself “part of social consciousness” with efforts like the “Greenlight a Vet” campaign, which urges people to change one light at home to green, then share on social media.